Overspending on AIDS Killing Us

January 01, 2004  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Scripps Howard News Service  ·  Aids

Magic Johnson's smiling face, 13 years after his HIV diagnosis, shows that AIDS is hardly the threat it once was.

In a recent Science magazine editorial, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HIV/AIDS director Dr. Harold Jaffe lamented that "the proportion of Americans who consider HIV/AIDS to be the most urgent health problem facing this nation today has decreased from 38 percent in 1997 to 17 percent."

"We must ask ourselves," he wrote, tears dripping on his keyboard, why we "don’t care more about the domestic epidemic."

Well, Doc, maybe it’s because domestic AIDS hasn’t been epidemic for a decade. And why no compassion for all those who have died and will die from vastly more devastating diseases because we keep pouring money down the gullet of the AIDS lobby?

To a great extent Jaffe, now with England’s Oxford University, literally illustrated why AIDS should be eliciting less concern and funding. In the article’s sole graph, he showed new diagnoses peaked 10 years ago and are now barely half the rate as then. Deaths have declined about 75 percent.

While about 16,000 Americans died from AIDS in 1992, over twice that many die annually just from flu. A half million succumb yearly to cancer, with the butcher’s bill for incurable pancreatic cancer alone about twice that as for AIDS.

The decline in concern over AIDS is actually a decline in national hysteria. It’s obscene that almost a fifth of Americans still consider AIDS our prime health problem when our biggest killer, heart disease, reaps 700,000 Americans annually. Yet only 8 percent of us consider it our greatest health worry.

Jaffe valiantly uses a number of hoary old tricks to exaggerate the AIDS problem, but all turn to dust when exposed to the rays of the sun. (Though to his credit, he does not exaggerate the heterosexual threat.) For example instead of comparing deaths from AIDS to other diseases, Jaffe compares them to war deaths. That’s hardly fair since even in the bloodiest days of the Civil War or World War II, disease deaths have vastly outweighed those from combat.

Then he hits us with the one AIDS figure that’s actually going up, that of people living with the disease. Yet this merely reflects the good news that fewer people are dying from the disease. Which would he prefer?

Jaffe worries that high-risk behavior continues among homosexual men as evidenced by syphilis outbreaks among them; but this is merely an inevitable reaction to the good news. The medicines are now so incredibly effective that while HIV infection was once seen as a death sentence, it’s now viewed as an inconvenience. Tossing more money and condoms at homosexuals will help nothing.

Anyway, as Bugs Bunny says: "Unlax, Doc!" Whatever the public thinks or wants, pandering politicians have ensured that taxpayer funding for AIDS swamps that of every other disease.

Although AIDS cases and deaths are declining and the disease is completely preventable, it nonetheless gets almost $180,000 in research funds per death from the National Institutes of Health. Compare that to its closest rivals: Parkinson’s Disease, prostate cancer, and diabetes. All of these receive about $14,000 per death. Alzheimer’s gets about $11,000. Yet Jaffe, a top-notch epidemiologist before succumbing to the AIDS bureaucracy, bemoans that the CDC HIV/AIDS budget has not been matching inflation over the last few years. So a minimum 13-to-1 spending ratio over any other disease isn’t enough? And that only includes medical research funds. Each year under the "Ryan White CARE" act, which Congress unanimously re-authorized in 2000, approximately $2 billion is doled out to AIDS patients for medicine, housing, meals, cash payments, dental care and many other goods and services. This false compassion shown to victims of only one illness is actually indifference and cruelty to those who suffer every other terrible disease.

Further, with so much money involved and with AIDS the prima donna of federal spending, Ryan White inevitably became rife with corruption. Embezzlements, junkets, and other misspending were documented in the liberal Washington Monthly by, of all people, a co-founder of the AIDS activist group ACT-UP.

As Jaffe’s pathetic complaint makes clear, for the AIDS lobby nothing we say or do or spend will ever be enough. To which we must finally respond: Enough!